The big man filled the doorway; he stood there watching as I adjusted his wife’s pillows. Belinda, my patient smiled brilliantly, so I turned to look. There stood Mohamed Ali with the heavy weight title holder’s belt over his shoulder.
One of my first black heroes walked over to give his wife a kiss, while I waited for my eyes to pop back into my head. The man was huge and all muscle with a presence that overwhelmed. He turned to me and smiled, “Hi, I’m Mohamed Ali; and you are?”
I felt giddy and I have never been a giddy little girl. He tossed the belt on a chair, went to the window, while chatting with his wife. As I did my job, I stole another look at the beautiful he-man, who he held my admiration. He refused the draft; in the sixties that was a big deal. He paid the price with dignity and came out WORLD CHAMPION.
Mohamed Ali charmed everybody who just happened to wander by; part of my job was to protect Mrs. Ali’s privacy by shagging people away, who didn’t hold rank. He held court with everybody before allowing me to do my job. His stories with extreme facial expressions had me laughing until my jaws hurt. This had to be my best work day; I couldn’t wait to tell my husband.
On loan for the day from the Orthopedics, the head nurse told me to return to my floor populated by elderly women with broken hips and young men injured in motorcycle or car accidents.
I said goodbye to Belinda, a lovely woman and asked her husband to come with me to sign casts for the guys stuck in bed.
“Sure, I’ll do it, but I’m not walking; you have to push me in a wheel chair.”
I hesitated; I liked my job and feared the hierarchy, but can say no to Mohamed Ali? Room to room I pushed the big guy, who made everybody smile along the way.
Black guys, white guys, even the old ladies creamed their drawers when he turned his attention their way. Mrs. Liesendahl, my head nurse did her usual little twitter when she was happy, so I knew she approved.
At the end of our tour he said, “Stop.”
He got out of the wheelchair and said, “Get in.”
Terrified, I said, “No, I’ll get into trouble.”
Uninjured staff members do not belong in wheelchairs; no way, no how was I going to jeopardize my job.
“You’re not going to get into trouble; get in.” He looked at the seat and smiled; I hesitated, but could see he wasn’t giving on this.
The Mohamed Ali pushed me to the elevator, where we chatted about some of the guys he’d met, as we waited. The door opened, out stepped the director of nursing, my big boss. I felt my eyes bulge and my mouth drop; terror set in immediately.
This woman conjured the most angry, disgusted expression she could muster, her eyes glued to me. I just knew if I did that I was going to loose my job. I could see our extra cash and my independence flying out the door. My boss had the wrath of God written on her face. I jumped out of the chair, turned to the man, who had made me feel like a friend, and said, “I told you I’d get into trouble.”
The director of nurse had this I’m going to kick your ass look, until her eyes focused on the man pushing her staff member.
He touched my shoulder, “Calm down.”
This is Mohamed Ali; the realization came to the woman in the starched white uniform and cap. And then, he turned on the charm, telling her how dedicated I was to the hospital to take him to visit the guys in Ortho; she really should check moral on 4
“She is one of my better girls,” the tight assed nurse gushed.
Who could say no to Mohamed Ali?